While school, professors, organizations and even internships can certainly help you begin to understand the business world, there is no greater insight than straight from the source. Mentors are there to be your shadow, if you will, in helping you navigate your career and they can help determine paths as well as give you advice along the way because they have actually been there.
It's tough to seek out and find these people, so I recommend joining an organization with a mentorship program (in fact, that is how I met my first mentor). We were paired together after an application and interview process that found our personalities and goals were in harmonious alignment. From there, I found that natural relationships blossomed in which I found people who were receptive to "paying it forward" in the form of mentorship and I currently have three different mentors whom I look to for very different forms of advice.
Mentor No. 1 is a woman about three years older than myself. Since we are so close in age, she helps me to focus on my very next step and how I am laying the groundwork to get there. Not to mention, she can give the best advice from the female perspective.
Then there is mentor No. 2 who is a male senior VP at the largest digital publisher in the world.He really helps me focus on the long-term growth plan and shares his specific knowledge of the digital world. For instance, we discuss the following types of questions: What sorts of experiences do I need to get under my belt to progress towards my goal? Who do I need to meet along my journey to shed further light?
Lastly, there is my newest female mentor who is a high-ranking executive at a major business publication. She is married and has two children along with her BIG job. We focus on navigating office politics and most importantly how to maintain the work/life balance. She should know.
At the end of the day, mentors will help keep you sane and serve as valuable springboards for ideas. Think of a mentor almost as a family member; they have a vested interest in helping you succeed. You have a bond that creates a circle of trust and remember that the relationship is based on an understanding (from the beginning) that you need help in figuring out your career path. Lastly, these are the people you can ask the tough questions to and figure out the answers in dealing with questionable work situations.
Now, are you asking yourself, "How in the world do I get started?" I went through the same process, but that is why there are great programs out there to get you started.I can personally recommend two great organizations whom each have a mentorship initiative that worked out for me in the past: The Ad Club of New York (check out their internship program; it includes mentors) and Ad Women of New York (AWNY; which is where I found two of my three mentors). In joining an "official" program such as these, you can also gain access to high caliber executives in the industry that you wouldn't have been able to reach out to otherwise.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get yourself a mentor!About the Author
As the senior marketing analyst at Yahoo, Sarah is responsible for the implementation of audience-centric research solutions, including 'mom research' and insights around women and consumer packaged goods. Prior to joining Yahoo, Sarah was involved in the digital industry for several years, with experience not only on the publisher side but also on the digital agency side; strategizing with the likes of MediaCom and Carat on their audience segmentation analysis. Sarah recieved a Bachelor's degree in Advertising & Marketing from Drake University in 2007, and currently resides in New York City. She also is involved in industry organizations The Ad Club of New York and Advertising Women of New York (AWNY).